Young Dems Mover and Shaker Takes on Injustices and So Much More


Brooklyn Young Democrats (BYD) President John Wasserman, 26, stood proudly before an applauding back room of the Douglas Bar on 4th Avenue in Park Slope as he accepted his award for Young Democrat of the Year.

“It’s been a blessing and a curse, but I am grateful for it,” Wasserman said clearly, the heavy stutter that usually impregnated his words nowhere to be heard. Diagnosed with a speech impediment at the early age of five, the award was a triumphant stance clear to those who were watching that here was a man not willing to be bogged down by self-victimization and circumstance.    

The Jan. 28 event also highlighted how under Wasserman’s leadership and with a strong board, the BYD Club has been gaining prominence and political clout throughout Brooklyn and the city. The room was filled with familiar faces – Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and City Councilmembers Farah Louis and Brad Lander among them – as well as a number of district leaders and people running for various Democratic Party, state and city offices.

When accepting his award, Wasserman acknowledged his gratitude for the support that made his journey possible, making sure to explicitly thank his onlooking parents for their understanding and encouragement. The proud expressions they wore on their faces was hard to miss. 

Later in the week, in a personal interview at one of his favorite eateries, the Pearl Diner in Lower Manhattan, Wasserman’s life started coming together, as he spoke about the challenges he faced with his impediment and the desire to, and be, something more. 

“In high school, my stutter became increasingly worse. My social anxiety and depression because of it really impacted me and I became reclusive. I didn’t want to raise my hand, I couldn’t participate in class, I was so embarrassed of myself,” Wasserman started off. 

John Wasserman with Democratic District Leader Josue (Josh) Pierre. Photo from Facebook.

How does one go from this to being grateful for something that caused him so much angst? For John, the turning point came when he arrived at Brooklyn College, where he founded the Young College Democrats and joined political organizations on campus.

“I had a realization then that, yes, it takes a lot of courage, and I still have anxiety about it to this day, but it’s something that will be with me every day. It’s something I can use as a tool to relate to people with.” 

Through his political work, Wasserman was approached with an offer to start working in the City’s Public Engagement initiative for helping tenants on the ground. After deciding it would do him better to take a break from college to start helping people struggling with the housing crisis, Wasserman was assigned to the East Harlem- Inwood area. There, the desire from landlords to unrightfully evict tenants out of their homes so they can destabilize the rent saddened him.

“I saw a ton of that. I would visit the tenant one week and build a relationship with them, only to come back some months later and see workers painting the apartment, redoing the floors, adding new appliances…,” he recalled.

This experience shaped him, cementing within him a passion to continue helping people in his community. After finishing his college degree with honors, Wasserman continued with his political career by becoming Democratic District Leader Doug Schnieder’s (Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Borough Park, Victorian Flatbush, Ditmas Park, Midwood) campaign manager, winning the race with a huge voter turnout. Going on to help get Civil Court Judge Caroline Cohen elected, Wasserman believes he’s found the common thread to how to touch people. 

“You have to pull out their stories, their experiences which shapes who they are and why they care about something. Young people nowadays are looking for realness and authenticity, and when you share your story it humanizes you and makes people comfortable with who you are. That is why I talk about my stuttering, because I know by letting your guard down and becoming vulnerable, that’s when people can relate to you,” he said.

The waiter came by the booth to ask how things were going; to which Wasserman replied that all was well. He stuttered, and the waiter, clearly not expecting this, regarded him with aggravation. Wasserman seemed not to notice, or make any mention of it, and the interview continued from where it left off. But this minor instance seemed to represent just how thoroughly the message of accepting who you are and sharing your story has been integrated into John Wasserman’s life. 

“It’s so important to speak about my stuttering because it’s integral to who I am. You know how many people I speak to who say to me, ‘Thank you so much for doing this. I have a nephew, aunt, friend with a stutter and it’s amazing for them to see you,’” he said.

Wasserman is currently working as the Brooklyn Borough lead for the NYC Census 2020. The census happens once every ten years, and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Besides the physical count, the census information is also used to determine New York City’s federal funds for public education, public housing, infrastructure, and seats in congress.